Aid deal possible if Democrats compromise: Mnuchin

By: AFP      Published: 08:56 PM, 10 Aug, 2020
Aid deal possible if Democrats compromise: Mnuchin

An agreement on a new pandemic relief package is possible if Democrats in Congress are willing to give ground on some of their demands, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.

President Donald Trump signed four executive orders over the weekend as a stopgap measure after the White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal for a new round of emergency aid to workers and businesses even as the COVID-19 case count soars past five million and unemployment remains high.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met several times last week with Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to try to bridge the gap between the Democrats $3 trillion proposal and the Republicans' $1 trillion plan.

However, Mnuchin called the Democratic offer to come down to $2 trillion, including aid to state and local governments, "absurd."

He said Monday on CNBC that "there's a deal to do if the Democrats are reasonable and want to compromise."

"But what we're not going to deal with, where there's really bad policy ideas. We're not going to just split the difference," Mnuchin said.

Trump has repeatedly rejected any plan that offers aid to state and local governments, saying on Twitter on Monday that Pelosi and Schumer "only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly."

While economists note that pandemic funding pressures mean many state and local governments may be forced to lay off teachers, police and firefighters, Mnuchin said they have "plenty of money" left from the last aid package to cover their budget deficits.

Trump's actions will defer collection of payroll taxes -- which only helps people who are employed -- impose a moratorium on evictions, and provide $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, to be partially paid by already strained states, to replace the $600 weekly payments that expired at the end of July.

But Democrats criticized the moves as insufficient, and even the US Chamber of Commerce said presidential orders are "no substitute for Congressional action."

"Today's meager announcements show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families," Pelosi said on Twitter. 

"Democrats repeat our call to Republicans to return to the table, meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people."

Mnuchin said there was room to advance the talks, saying, "If we can get a fair deal we'll do it this week. But the President needed to take action, he's not going to sit around."